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Larry Gelbart strings ‘fine jewelry’ outside Paramount gate

Gelbart“The short answer as to why I’m here is because we are used to being fairly compensated for our work and now someone tells us that we won’t be in the future,” Larry Gelbart said outside the Paramount gate Monday morning. “And that’s hard to accept.”

Asked by a WGA camera crew member what he’d tell younger writers, he said, “You’re striking for your future. No one ever gives you your rights. You have to fight for them.”

He recalled being on the Par lot many years ago for a screen test, and then as a writer to punch up dialogue for Bob Hope films — all before writing “M*A*S*H,” “Oh, God” and “Tootsie.”   

“People expect me everything that comes out of my mouth to be a pearl,” Gelbart said, “and then they expect that they’ll string them together and have a piece of fine jewelry.”

Gelbart was soon surrounded by fellow pickets expressing their admiration for his work. That included thesp and SAG board member Valerie Harper, “Book of Daniel” showrunner Jack Kenny, “Everybody Loves Raymond” showrunner Phil Rosenthal and Rosenthal’s father, Max.

The elder Rosenthal carried a picket sign that read, “I Need Words.” He explained that he’s a SAG member, having performed in “Raymond” episodes as a lodge brother compadre of Peter Boyle’s Frank Barone character (who was inspired in no small measure by Max Rosenthal) along with Ray Romano’s real-life father.

“I was in five of the 200 shows,” he said.

Kenny’s homemade picket sign featured grouchy photos of Viacom topper Sumner Redstone and Fox chief Rupert Murdoch, a drawing of holly and the simple inscription “Bah Humbug.”

“I’m thrilled and I’m very hopeful that they can find a way to meet in the middle,” Kenny said. “Negotiations can be pretty simple — They say ‘one,’ we say ‘ten’ and we agree on five.”

Harper, a member of SAG’s national board, also expressed hope that the WGA and the companies can make a deal. “Otherwise, this could be a real mess for SAG next summer. Golda Meir said the only answer is peace and the road is negotiation.”

–Dave McNary

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